Column: Newsom and mayors meet to discuss homelessness. Have we hit rock bottom?
The problem of homelessness and mental health have, until now, been largely separate.
It’s a problem that can be solved in many different ways; a problem that should have been tackled decades ago when resources were scarce.
I believe we’ve come to the point where the causes of mental illness and mental health are more interrelated, and the solutions are more interrelated; we have reached a point where we can see more clearly the benefits of addressing the one problem with the other.
The point I’d like to make, though, is that this is not the first time the problem of homelessness has caught the attention of our political leaders.
Back in 2002, George W. Bush, Mayor Ed Koch, and many people in Albany were asking why it took so long to address the homelessness issue. When the state legislature finally passed a homelessness bill in 2009, the federal government said to forget it.
In 2013, Mayor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Cuomo were asking why the state didn’t have a law that would force landlords to put a limit on the size of a unit and the number of units per building. And the state legislature again failed to pass any legislation addressing the issue, instead making it illegal for landlords not to rent to the homeless when they weren’t needed.
In 2016, Governor Cuomo pushed through a bill that forced cities and towns to establish shelters within 15 days or face fines.
And in 2017, Governor Cuomo signed a bill banning local governments from creating more homeless services unless they comply with federal requirements. While this isn’t a law, it is a good start, and I believe it will move the conversation forward.
When I started this column, I said this is the year we get to the bottom of the problem of homelessness.
The problem is bad enough that, when you add in the costs of treatment for those who use the services